Diverse Speakers in Tech Project

In 2013 we had 4 women speakers out of 28 at our WordCamp (WordPress) Vancouver conference.

Female audience members didn’t feel comfortable being there and called us out publicly.

The thing is, it wasn’t that we weren’t accepting them, it’s that they weren’t applying in the first place. Women were feeling like they’re not expert enough to speak on anything, or that they wouldn’t know what to talk about.

So I created a short, 4-hour, impactful workshop to help women who wanted to speak but who weren’t feeling qualified, and in one year, we had 3 times the number of female applicants and 50% of our speakers were now women.

I’m now the lead of a project in the WordPress community called Diversity Outreach Speaker Training that is spreading this work out not only for women but for all underrepresented groups globally.

To give you an example of how quickly we’ve scaled and how effective this work has been, in 2018 alone so far we provided diversity support to 55 Meetup organizers in 26 countries, gave training to 45 meetup organizers, 12 have run our speaker training workshop in 6 countries, and other WordPress-related groups have used it as well.

The results have been phenomenal. Those who ran it achieved on average 50% women or diverse speakers. The highest this year was 63%.

Even in Italy where WordPress had very few women in their community, I mean forget about even being speakers, after running the workshop and putting in best practises, in less than a year were able to bring up their women speakers to 50%.

This is more than about just getting up on stage. This work has been a pivot point for many people’s lives. Many start to become organizers and leaders in their communities. They create new initiatives in their communities. They get hired by businesses who see them speak.

And things are changing at WordPress because of this. Having more diverse speakers has improved the brand and even the product itself. When more kinds of people are shaping the product, it:

  • becomes inclusive for more people
  • benefits from new ideas and becomes a better product for all

Our team’s next goal is to serve 100+ meetups a year by the end of 2020. There are nearly 700 meetups in total and we want to reach as many of them as we can.

In order to do this, we are looking for funding. I am still in the early stages of creating sponsor packages, and I would love to discuss with you how we can create a win-win for us and for your company. Please contact me.

“Jill’s leadership in the development and growth of the Diversity Outreach Speaker Training initiative has had a positive, measurable impact on WordPress community events worldwide. When WordPress events are more diverse, the WordPress project gets more diverse — which makes WordPress better for more people.”

Andrea Middleton
Community organizer on the WordPress open source project

Want to get involved?

Do you run a WordPress Meetup? More information and sign up form

Would you like to be part of the team? Join the WordPress Diversity Outreach Speaker Training group

Would you like to run it for your conference or corporation? Contact me

Want to read more?

I wrote about my efforts to increase diversity in WordPress, at WordCamps, and in leadership positions on HeroPress: Accidental Activist, HeroPress.


Featured image taken by Jeremy Lim